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4Corners is a formidable investigative resource - why does it cover Pauline Hanson but not Gillard?

On Monday ABC 4 Corners brings its considerable resources to bear against Pauline Hanson's One Nation - even though the ABC is regularly at pains to talk down her significance and electoral prospects.

 

Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party chose not to cooperate with the ABC during the WA election.

The ABC was not happy.

It issued this statement following the campaign.

ABC News editorial director's statement on not being invited to Pauline Hanson's party

Statement from ABC Editorial Director: exclusion of ABC journalists by One Nation officials

The ABC is deeply concerned at the decision by One Nation to single out and exclude ABC reporters from its official election night function in Perth on Saturday night.

I have been in communication with One Nation officials since early Sunday seeking an explanation.

Despite the fact that One Nation has claimed that all media were treated appropriately and obtained material from a pool camera on the night, the facts remain that:

  • Other media representatives from a range of organisations attended on the night without any prior arrangements or permission being required.
  • Those other media representatives, who included broadcasters, agencies and newspaper reporters from inside and outside Western Australia, were granted immediate access to the event.
  • The ABC was denied access, and was treated differently to all other media.

Throughout the Western Australian election campaign, the ABC has provided accurate, impartial and independent political coverage and all political parties have been the subject of appropriate scrutiny and questioning.

If the ABC has been denied normal access to political events for simply doing its job, then that is an attack not just on the public broadcaster but on the fundamental role of the media in a democracy.

We will continue, as we always have, to report without fear or favour.

Alan Sunderland

ABC Editorial Director

ENDS

There's no doubt there's bad blood between the ABC and Pauline Hanson.

But 4Corners is a very expensive national asset.  It's not the plaything of the ABC's staff collective.

Now listen again to the promotion for Monday night's show.

The promo could equally have been written featuring Bob Kernohan and others in 2012 regarding Gillard and her secretive deals with the AWU.

"A political party is supposed to be transparent, democratic, inclusive and the party at the moment is not any of those things."Former Party Worker

"If the public knew what went on in the Party I don't think they'd have anything to do with One Nation." Former Candidate

In 2012 I spent days at the ABC going through the paperwork and other evidence I had gathered setting out the story of Gillard and the AWU Scandal.

Jonathon Holmes was my first port of call.  He was quite reasonable, gave me a lot of time and realised that his first commentary on the scandal when I was suspended was wrong.  He atoned with this: 

 
He also took me to the 4 Corners offices and arranged meetings for me with the Executive Producer and reporters.
 
I know that 4Corners people set to work on a story regarding Gillard and the AWU Scandal.
 
I know people like Bob Kernohan were spoken to.
 
But in the end, the story of the prime minister who was under police investigation for fraud was canned.
 
All the comments from members of the tiny Pauline Hanson One Nation Party could equally apply to Gillard's Labor Government which was in power when 4Corners decided to drop the story.
 
Pauline Hanson offers the ABC nothing.  But who decides what gets covered at 4Corners and what doesn't?
 
I'd hate to think it's payback for Pauline.
 
But at the same time the ABC decided to drop the story on Gillard, Gillard gave them $190M of our money. 
 

The ABC did very well out of the Rudd/Gillard Governments - as a result you'd hope it was extra careful about bias.

The ABC tells us it was pleased with the extra financial support that the Rudd and Gillard governments gifted to it.  On the other hand, the ABC had contingency plans to deal with widely expected funding cuts should the coalition win government.

The ABC should have been aware of the potential conflict of interest it could be accused of in any perceived reporting that favoured Labor.   Where actual complaints of bias were made to the ABC you'd hope the ABC would act swiftly to correct the perception.   And where newsworthy events that reflected poorly on Labor happened,you'd hope the ABC would be assiduous in covering them.

In the context of an extra $190M in ABC funding that the Gillard Government decided on in June this year - smack bang in the middle of the search warrant reports in other media - the absence of any reporting at all on the issue takes on potentially sinister overtones.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott was equipped with 102 pages of "priority briefing notes" prepared by ABC staffers when he fronted the October 2012 Senate Estimates hearings.

His briefing notes were released under FOI in May this year.

Page One of 102 pages recorded how well the ABC had done out of the Rudd years.

The ABC wanted an extra TV network - ABC3 - and it got its way with $67M.

The ABC wanted more money for its local drama producing mates - they're very expensive if you want to see them happy and smiling.   $70 million extra for that.

$15.3 was found for ABC Open - along with an extra $13.6 for some capital spending.   All in all the ABC was very happy.

Abc estimates 2012_001

In 2013 under Ms Gillard the ABC was hit with the lucky stick again!  Here's the official statement reporting that the Gillard goverment found an extra $190M for its ABC - this was first published by then Minister Steven Conroy's office in June 2013 - right in the middle of the ABC's non-reporting of the Victoria Police search warrant proceedings.

Funding

The ABC is primarily financed by the federal government through triennial funding arrangements. In the 2013-14 Budget, the government is providing the ABC with an additional $30 million over three years to meet the growing demand for its digital services. The ABC will also receive $69.4 million over four years from 2012-13 to expand its news and current affairs services. In addition, the government will provide a loan of $90 million over three years to the ABC to assist with the construction of a purpose-built ABC facility at Southbank, Melbourne.

In 2013-14, government funding to the ABC will total $1.05 billion.

You can add the Australia Network contract worth $233M over the next decade - gifted to the ABC in perpetuity after Julia Gillard's intervention.

Mark Scott and the team were thrilled with Labor.   How about the coalition, what impact did the ABC plan for - what did the ABC itself think of the prospect of having the coalition in charge.

Mark Scott carried these public statements from his Chairman Justice Jim Spiegelman in his pack of Senate Estimates papers.

Abc estimates 2012_042

Abc estimates 2012_043
So - Labor financially good for the ABC.  The Coalition would probably mean cuts to its funding.

Pretty strong motivation to look after their 190M dollar girl.

 

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